Hello, my friends. The world has a tendency to put us in physically and mentally exhausting situations. However, it all feels miniscule compared to the harrowing and blood-soaked situations that our main fighting figures have gone up against throughout the decades. In honor of this franchise celebrating its 30th Anniversary, it’s fitting that I once again enter the Retrospective ring. On that note, I welcome you to a special article called…
Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, the series first came about as far back as 1989, but development kicked into high gear once “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior” hit the arcade scenes in 1991. Taking only 10 months to make amongst the various inspirations that included (but were not limited to) Data East’s “Karate Champ” and Mr. Bloodsport himself: Jean-Claude Van Damme (who ultimately served as the physical inspiration for a certain action movie-based character within the game), nobody was remotely prepared for the impact that it was about to deliver to the masses.
Released in the arcades on October 8, 1992, it would make a name for itself amongst fighting game enthusiasts. Not only that, but its eventual release onto the home consoles on September 13, 1993 (known historically as “Mortal Monday”) would continue to help it make some significant waves.
On a particular note, the arcade game also originally presented an interesting offer during its attract mode. That notable offer is exactly where our four-paneled journey into this historical look begins.
Originally published in 1992, “Mortal Kombat Collector’s Edition” served as a prologue to the franchise’s inaugural game. With series co-creator John Tobias handling both writing and illustrating duties, here’s what happened in the lead-up to this initial clash.
We open on some narration about the Shaolin Tournament, which was an honorable and glorious competition that managed to attract various fighters from around the globe. However, it also caught the attention of a devious figure named Shang Tsung who managed to ultimately win the title of grand champion. En route to his title however, he also had to fulfill a curse that “his gods” had placed upon him where he sucked out the souls of every fighter that he defeated, which also allowed him to keep a firm grasp upon his youth. Thankfully, his reign would get disrupted by “a noble and mighty Shaolin monk” named the Great Kung Lao, whose strength and speed bested the overly-confident fiend as he ultimately won the title. Several years later, one of the tournament’s three grandmasters would meet a mysterious end as Shang Tsung reemerged as a decrepit-looking man and has brought “an Outworlder and former pupil” into the contest. That being turns out to be the Shokan warrior named Goro whose own abnormal strength and speed ultimately bested the Great Kung Lao in a lengthy contest. With Shang Tsung seated amongst the grandmasters, the Shaolin honor would slowly be drained from the tournament and serve as his own lifeline towards immortality. We then shift ahead by five centuries to the Honan Province in China where a young Shaolin Monk named Liu Kang had grown up hearing various tales about Shang Tsung’s contest. With him fully-aware of the evil within the tournament, he decides to accept his recently-received invitation. From there, he informs Master Wu of his intentions to take part in the contest. He warns his pupil to “not overlook the motive of Tsung’s initiation”, since losing to Goro would permanently cripple their attempt to reclaim their tournament. Even though Liu says that his four-armed foe has grown over-confident from his lengthy amount of wins, Wu still tells him that his “mind and spirit” must work as one in order for him to prevail. As such, he gives Kang permission to participate.
We then shift ahead two weeks later in Hong Kong as a martial arts movie star named Johnny Cage has also been invited into the tournament and is about to get on a sail barge that will head towards the contest. Despite his agent telling him that he hasn’t even heard of this competition and his personal secretary informing him that he has to take part in the filming of an upcoming movie, Johnny refuses to reconsider as he tells them that he’ll return in two weeks before he makes his way onto the boat. Meanwhile, a chase is occurring a few miles away as a group of thugs called the Black Dragon are being pursued. During their conversation amongst each other, it’s revealed that their leader named Kano is looking to take part in the contest and win it in order to gain access to what he thinks is a palace filled with lots of gold. From there, he leaps onto the bullet-proof van that’s pursuing them and runs across its roof. Inside the vehicle, a group of Special Forces agents hear their prime suspect dashing over them before Lt. Sonya Blade sees Kano attempting to flee. As such, she tells a fellow agent named Jake that they’re going after him. A foot pursuit ensues before Kano surprises them with some gunfire. However, he wasn’t aiming for them and instead shoots some gasoline barrels, causing them to blow up. This manages to serve enough of a distraction, allowing Kano to leap onto the fleeing boat. Sonya says that they can’t open fire on him, since they would risk shooting one of the innocent patrons on board. As such, she’ll get in contact with a speeder boat and wait for the wooden ship to get far out to sea before they engage it.
Over within the mountainous regions of Japan, Shang calls out to a certain Thunder God and demands for him to take part in his tournament. Suddenly, he gets approached by the mighty being named Raiden who calls him out for his less-than-noble contest before he accepts the invitation. Back over on the China Sea, the potential combatants are still heading out towards the contest. However, Kano decides to fight Cage. As Liu watches this scuffle, Johnny is able to take advantage of a distracting lull as he uses a Shadow Kick to retaliate. Kang even gets in on the action and helps him defeat Kano, along with the rest of the devious fighters. As their adversaries take their leave, Liu tells Cage to proceed with caution.
Unbeknownst to them, they’re being watched by a Lin Kuei assassin named Bi-Han a.k.a. Sub-Zero. However, he’s then approached by a ninja specter named Hanzo Hasashi a.k.a. Scorpion. Bi-Han is surprised to see him, especially since he killed off his foe. Even though he was able to return from the dead and could get his murderous revenge right now, Hanzo says that he’ll wait until the tournament in order to make him pay. As a new day dawns, the ship finally arrives at its destination alongside several other seacrafts. After the combatants have had time to practice and train, they get an announcement from Shang Tsung who thanks them for making the journey to the contest. From there, he then reveals that Sonya and a pair of her fellow agents were captured. With our original core group of fighters gathered, the comic ends with Goro officially declaring the tournament to begin.
Despite the controversy surrounding its violent content, it was still a major success and thus, a sequel was developed before getting released into the arcades in late 1993. Eventually, the initial batch of home console ports would get released on September 13, 1994, also known as “Mortal Tuesday”.
Just like the inaugural entry, the sequel would announce to its fans via its attract mode some tie-in merchandise. In addition to the first game’s comic, there was also a CD soundtrack for the second outing. Not only that, but there was also our next featured book.
Released in 1994, the “Mortal Kombat II Collector’s Comic” saw Tobias write, draw and co-color this entry. Joining him on this venture was Andy Kudelka, while Tony Goskie also helped out on coloring duties. With this team gathered, here’s how this prologue tale plays out.
We begin as Johnny Cage narrates about how Liu Kang defeated Goro and won the Mortal Kombat tournament. However, Shang Tsung refuses to let some fresh souls slip away as he sends the now-former Shokan champion and a few hundred other warriors against our main group. Johnny, Kano & Sonya join forces to fight Goro, Raiden unites with both Scorpion & Sub-Zero to properly fight the opposing army and Liu Kang goes up against Shang Tsung himself. During their fight on top of the Pit, the over-arching bridge gets destroyed via an explosion as Goro, Kano & Lt. Blade vanish within the blaze. Cage managed to grab onto the bridge, but it ultimately crumbles as he ultimately begins to plummet as well. Suddenly, Raiden flies in and saves him. The Thunder God explains that because Shang Tsung has been supposedly killed in battle by Liu Kang, the whole island is now blowing up around them since it was held together by the sorcerer’s own existence. He also explains that Liu has managed to escape, while Sub-Zero was killed by Scorpion shortly after Shang Tsung’s army was defeated before he vanished in his own flames. From there, Johnny and Raiden manage to escape through a portal before the blast sends them flying into the ocean.
Sometime later, Cage regains his consciousness while he’s floating on some wood within the East China Sea. Fortunately, he notices a ship sailing towards him as he calls out to it. While it does approach him, its occupants soon point their guns at him before bringing him on board. It’s then revealed that Johnny was rescued and brought to a U.S. Special Forces base where he’s been interrogated by Mj. Jackson Briggs a.k.a. Jax. Despite his teammate named Lt. Steve Beran telling him that this story has been repeatedly told to them with the same details, Jax doesn’t entirely believe him. Despite that, he’ll still let Cage go before he threatens the movie star that he’ll return for him once he has his evidence.
Over in Outworld, Shang Tsung has been brought back to his master’s castle by the Goran King of Kuatan named Gorbak. He demands for the sorcerer to be brought to his kingdom and get executed there since his son Goro has seemingly perished, especially since Earthrealm’s warriors were severely underestimated. However, Outworld’s emperor named Shao Kahn says that they must look past Goro’s supposed demise, especially since he still needs to expand his rule beyond his domain. However, he can’t conquer Earthrealm unless its fighters are bested. From there, he asks Shang Tsung why he shouldn’t personally execute him. The disgraced sorcerer explains that any realm has the “right of challenge”, as long as they’re able to breach other dimensional gates. If he’s allowed to have his youth returned to him, then he’ll have the strength to open a portal that’s big enough for them to send a small army into Earthrealm. Shao Kahn then asks a Shadow Priest about his own future should he follow through with this plan, to which the figure says that while this does allow them to exercise their right to challenge, it still goes against “the wishes of the Elder Gods”. As such, he’s unable to get a clear mental outcome of the upcoming events. If Shao Kahn emerges victorious, then he’ll practically become immortal and expand his rule like a God. However, ultimate defeat will see him suffer forever in limbo. Gorback allows Shang Tsung to live, but he wants to make sure that their victory is guaranteed. As such, he offers another fierce four-armed fighter from his kingdom named Kintaro to join them. Shao Kahn accepts him onto his side before he restores Shang Tsung’s youth. However, he warns the sorcerer that he’ll be tortured for all eternity if he fails again. Shao Kahn then tells him that before they offer their challenge, he wants his sorcerer to make their realm’s presence felt. As such, he teams Shang Tsung up with not just Kintaro, but also Kitana, Mileena and Baraka before he sends the group out on their mission. Back at the U.S. Special Forces base, Jax and his team receive a transmission from Sonya. She tells them that she’s trapped within Outworld and that they must find either Johnny Cage or Liu Kang, since either figure can properly explain their entire situation. She then reveals that she’s hiding out within the forest city of Shokan alongside their own enemy Kano before she tells her team to warn Johnny and Liu of the danger that they’re in. Kano then says that their otherworldly enemies want to conquer their planet and that they should counter with lots of guns. From there, the transmission gets cut off as Jax tells his team that they have to reach Cage in order to inform him of the impending danger.
We then shift over to the Honan Province in China as Kang returns to his Shaolin Temple. However, he finds the building in ruins while the students were viciously slaughtered. He then promises his fallen comrades that he’ll hunt down the fiends that were responsible for this before he’s then met upon by a familiar fighter named Kung Lao. Liu tells his comrade that while he joined the White Lotus Society, he went out to compete in Shang Tsung’s tournament. However, Kung tells him that this destruction was the result of his victory. Kang rebuts by explaining that they’ve been training since they were young to protect a world that only sees their history as a myth. Lao says that it’s obvious that Outworld forces attacked the temple and that he’ll gladly join him in their fight against said opposition. Just then, a hover-jet arrives as Kung Lao recognizes it as property of the Lin Kuei. A man then emerges and approaches them before he presents his business card, revealing that he’s Sub-Zero. Liu wonders how that’s possible since he saw him get murdered by Scorpion, to which the man (who gets ultimately named Kuai Liang) explains that it was his older brother who suffered said fate, even describing him as “Lin Kuei’s finest” warrior who was becoming antiquated due to his stubborn refusal of using modern technology in his missions. He then says that his clan detected some “gammatronic readings” within their area that indicated an opening portal. Thanks to some surveillance photos that were taken, he discovers that Shang Tsung has emerged and that he’s going after Johnny Cage. From there, all three figures decide to head out and prevent this assassination attempt.
Over at Karate Flick Pictures in Hollywood, Johnny is shooting a commercial for his own brand of cologne. Suddenly, a portal opens behind him as Shang Tsung arrives with his Outworld army in order to kill him. Over in a nearby lobby, Jax and Steve have also shown up in order to protect the action star. Suddenly, Cage gets thrown through a nearby wall and shows up near them.
As Briggs begins to inform him of Sonya’s message, Shang Tsung shows up before he shoots a flaming skull from his hands. Jax gets hit as the blast forces him back while Beran opens fires, but to no avail as they easily bounce off of Baraka. Soon enough, the Tarkatan fiend gets sent after Johnny. Fortunately, he’s able to retaliate with a fierce kick. Meanwhile, Jackson is able to recover before he charges in and fights Kintaro.
Back with Shang Tsung, he tells Mileena to execute Steve while he has Kitana join forces with Baraka against Johnny. As Briggs’ fight against Kintaro spills out into the parking lot, Sub-Zero flies in with his team. He then tells a fellow ninja named Smoke (who’s flying the plane alongside Ermac) to fly around for two additional passes, since he plans on having Liu and Kung jump out on the first pass while he’ll make a surprise attack during the second. From there, they set their plan into action as Lao throws his razor-tipped hat at Kintaro before he and Kang show up to help Jax. Despite being outnumbered, Shang Tsung isn’t bothered by it as he begins to announce his “proposition”.
Unbeknownst to him, Sub-Zero has jumped down in order to unleash a surprise attack. However, he’s suddenly smacked away as it’s revealed that Reptile was there to discreetly protect the fiendish sorcerer. Just then, the green-clad ninja gets struck by a familiar rope-and-kunai as Scorpion drags him in for a fierce uppercut. The specter then says that while he did slay the fighter who originally killed him, he’s returned in order to protect his former foe’s brother. Afterwards, Raiden shows up and stops this scuffle before he tells Shang Tsung that this fight is taking place outside of tournament regulation. The Thunder God then says that he assumes that Shao Kahn has helped the fiendish sorcerer regain his ability to open dimensional portals. From there, Raiden orders Shang Tsung to state his business, to which the sinister spellcaster says that he’s exercising his right to challenge and that he wants this group of Earth-based warriors to take part in a contest that Shao Kahn will be hosting. He then tells them to either accept the offer or forfeit before he and his forces teleport back to Outworld. Even though Liu Kang says that he’s already won and asks what would happen if they declined their tournament offer, Raiden tells him that he must defend his title since refusing to do so would weaken the look of his home realm to the Elder Gods and would also “unbalance the furies”. He then tells Jax, Kung Lao & Sub-Zero that their entries into the tournament was preordained by the Elder Gods and that their participation would strengthen Earthrealm’s chances of winning. Briggs is unsure about all of this and wants to ask his partner Steve, but Johnny remerges and tells him that Beran was murdered. And so, the comic ends with the whole group accepting the offer as Raiden tells them to prepare for battle over in Outworld.
We now leave the era of mail orders behind and venture into our permanent residence that consists of books that you could buy in actual comic stores. As for the first business to pick up the franchise’s comic license, we have the former Calabasas, California-based company called Malibu Comics. Formed in 1986, they published several notable books throughout their existence, but none more noteworthy than their line of comics set within the Ultraverse. Not only that, but they helped published Image Comics’ initial books during that company’s early days. During the end of their existence, their partnership with Marvel Comics would ultimately see the latter acquire them in 1994. As for how they handled the Mortal Kombat comics license, it turns out that they were given liberties and freedoms in order to create their own arcs & characters for their unique story lines.
First up for their run with the property, we have “Mortal Kombat: Blood & Thunder”. Consisting of seven issues that came out during the second half of 1994 and were all written by Charles Marshall (while penciling duties were helmed by Patrick Rolo, except for Issue #5 where it was handled by Kiki Chansomone), let’s begin our harrowing venture and see how this company handles this franchise.
For Issue #0, we actually have four short stories that’re all written by Charles Marshall and penciled by Patrick Rolo. First up, we have “Light & Darkness”. We open within the subterranean realm of Kuatan, which is a province within Outworld. Goro is out hunting reptilian creatures and is about to feast on one when suddenly, Raiden (who’s name was spelled as Rayden, due to then-M.K. publisher Acclaim making that alteration in order to avoid a copyright lawsuit from Tecmo, since they had an arcade named called Raiden) appears and offers him to join his side of the conflict, so that he can be alongside Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade & Liu Kang and ultimately tear down Shang Tsung’s tyranny. However, Goro refuses as he exclaims how he’s “a creature of darkness”. As such, Raiden shoots some lightning at him and tells him that he’ll ultimately regret turning down this offer. And so, the story ends with him saying that they’ll meet each other again before he disappears.
We then move on to our next story called “Kombatants” as our main seven fighters are on the wooden ship that’s taking them to the island that the fateful tournament is at. Scorpion shows up back from the dead and attacks with a spiked ball & chain. Sub-Zero (in particular, Bi-Han) deflects the attack with his wrist gauntlets as he exclaims that he personally killed his foe. Hanzo tells him that he did, but his own body wasn’t completely finished off as he pulls his face off and reveals his flaming skull head. He then shoots out some fire as Sub-Zero manages to dodge it before he uses his Ice Blast and freezes his adversary. From there, he kicks Scorpion with enough force to completely shatter his whole body. However, Hanzo reemerges in specter form and says that he’ll get the last laugh, to which Bi-Han says that he’ll be ready for that fateful moment. The rest of the core fighters are in stunned amazement over Scorpion’s otherworldly figure, to which Raiden says that he’s “too ashamed” to rest within his clan’s “eternal victory hall” until he finally enacts his revenge. And so, the tale ends with him telling Hanzo to fight honorably & gloriously within the upcoming tournament, yet he warns the specter that his victory will be fleeting and death will be waiting for him.
Next up, we have “Mortal Fear” as the narration describes Goro as a half-human dragon who’s been around for two millenniums and has defended his title of Mortal Kombat champion for the prior five centuries, ever since he triumphed over a monk from the Great Order of Light named the Great Kung Lao. The tale begins with him asking his master whom he should destroy, to which Shang Tsung compliments him and mentions that with the combined effort of his might & his own guards, no one will be able to break into his private fortress. The evil sorcerer then says that he is aware of the seven core fighters who could potentially pose a threat to his scheme, yet only brushes them off as he only sees the mission as their uniting bond. He then goes over all seven fighters and offers what he knows about them. With Johnny Cage, Shang Tsung describes him as someone who was trained by several of the world’s great masters, yet wastes his talents in action movies. For Kano, he’s a mercenary who works within the respectfully-feared group of criminals called the Black Dragon. He then moves on to Sonya Blade, who’s a gifted warrior from America is a member of the U.S. Special Forces. As for Sub-Zero, Shang admits that he doesn’t know too much about the chilling figure. However, he does recognize through his uniform that he’s a member of the Lin Kuei. He then says that Liu Kang used to belong to the White Lotus Society and that he continually represents “the interests and philosophies of the Order of Light”. Tsung then talks about Scorpion and while he doesn’t know the fighter’s name or origin, he senses that this figure isn’t truly alive, yet “very deadly”. Finally, he talks about Raiden and that while the Thunder God is able to personally back his own champions, he’s not allowed to talk part in the tournament due to his status. From there, the story ends with Shang Tsung telling Goro that while all seven of those fighters have their own reasons for stopping him, they still have to go through his personal guards. From there, they would have to go up against Goro before they could finally face the fiendish sorcerer himself.
From there, we’ve reached the final tale of the issue called “Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea”. As the familiar wooden boat makes its way to Shang Tsung’s island, the narration begins to delve into our featured fighters, starting with Lt. Sonya Blade. As she thinks to herself how she’s unsure if her call for back-up was received yet is still determined to bring Kano down, this U.S. Special Forces leader also mentally mentions that her adversary is somewhere on the boat and that she intends on tracking him down, especially since she’s very comfortable with her pursuit. We then shift over to Liu Kang who thinks to himself about how he’s heard of this tournament throughout his life, yet never thought it was real. The narration says that he’s returned from America to fight in this contest for the Temple of Light. However, he’s not the only representative to embark on this journey. It turns out that a pair of twin monks named Sing and Sang were also assigned to this task, especially since they can merge together and become a unified fighter named Siang. While Liu knows that the Temple of Light thinks that this two-for-one fighter is their best shot at reclaiming the title for them, Kang intends to prove them all wrong. Moving on, we have the opposing ninjas in Sub-Zero and Scorpion. Even though Bi-Han managed to kill his foe two years ago, Hanzo wasn’t entirely finished off. As such, the fire specter is seeking vicious revenge. From there, the narration mentions that Sub-Zero’s clan called the Lin Kuei wouldn’t approve of his nagging fear, but the icy ninja is constantly wondering how he could possible defeat a ghost. From there, we move over to Johnny Cage who’s then revealed to be the narrator of this entry. Even though he’s a highly-successful martial arts movie star, the populace isn’t convinced that he’s a natural fighter outside of his films. Against his P.R. team’s wishes, he intends to use this tournament as a means to solidify himself as a legit combatant.
He then briefly narrates about the featured Black Dragon member named Kano and while he does mention Sonya again, Johnny then talks about his unsureness about the two biggest adversaries of this whole competition: Goro & Shang Tsung. Even though he’s faced several opponents over the years and has even sensed their fears, Cage is certain that he won’t be sensing much of that from other fighters aside from his own. Finally, he talks about the Thunder God named Raiden. While this mighty being isn’t allowed to compete due to his status, he will be aiding Johnny, Sonya & Liu during their fights. Cage then narrates how Raiden was assigned by his fellow Elder Gods to tear down Shang Tsung’s treachery. From there, the comic ends with how things are about to get hectic until there’s only one person remaining as the ultimate victor, to which the reader is given the invitation to continue with Malibu Comics’ upcoming series.
The main series officially begins with Goro criticizing a group of guards for getting lax in their duties. As such, he punishes them by beating them to death. From there, Shang Tsung comes in and praises him for his ill-mannered behavior before he mentions that he’s getting close to a breakthrough with a book called the Tao Te Zhan. While he’s almost able to open it, he’s going to put that project on hold due to the upcoming tournament.
We then shift over to Hong Kong as the familiar ship is letting its combatants get on board. Among those is Johnny whose representatives don’t approve of him taking part in this contest. However, Cage is too determined to back down and decides to go through with it. We then cut to a short time later within the city as Kano is getting pursued by Sonya and her Special Forces team. Suddenly, the fiend turns his motorcycle around and decides to drive right towards the agents. To their surprise however, Kano drives his motorbike onto the van as he drives over his pursuers. From there, he reaches the dock and jumps towards the ship as he manages to reach the craft and climb on. Sonya and her partner named Sparky are amazed by how their foe got away before they decide to go after him on a speedboat while also calling for back-up.
Meanwhile, an occupant upon the boat does some pondering as Liu thinks back to his last moment at the Temple of the Order of Light. He tells his master that despite the group having already sent someone to the tournament, he was also invited and promises to bring honor back to them. Master Wu then reminds him of their tournament representative as Sing & Sang have already proven themselves worthy, especially with their ability to come together and become Siang. Fortunately, Wu does see a certain spark within Kang’s eyes and decides to let him compete. We then shift back to the present as Liu intends to live up to that promising piece of faith. Suddenly, he hears a nearby scuffle taking place as he leaps in to investigate.
It turns out that Kano has gotten into a fight with Johnny as Kang calls the crook out for getting the rest of the fighters to gang up on Cage. Fortunately, this gives Johnny the recovery time that he needed in order to strike back. Liu also joins in the fracas as they ultimately defeat all of the opposing fighters. In the end, Cage knocks Kano out with a swift kick to his face.
Unbeknownst to them, they’re being watched by a pair of Lin Kuei ninjas named Sub-Zero and Hydro. Bi-Han once again feels that certain feeling within his throat as a sign that a familiar foe is returning. Suddenly, Hydro gets possessed by Scorpion and reminds him of the two-year anniversary that his icy foe killed him. Hanzo then says that he’s been denied his right to enter his clan’s victory hall unless he gets revenge for his own demise. Sub-Zero asks how he could possibly defeat a specter, to which Scorpion says that it’s possible to take him down since if he loses, then his soul will wind up in “oblivion”. However, it’s a risk he’s willing to take in order to get his revenge. He then attempts to shoot some unholy fire at him, but he relinquished his hold upon Hydro during said time as Bi-Han gets saved by his teammate. Hanzo then tells his foe that he’s lucky that he’s risking himself to get revenge, since he’ll do whatever it takes to deliver the fatal blow. From there, he disappears as Hydro uses his water power to extinguish the fire. Shortly after Sub-Zero says that he shouldn’t have shown his fear to Scorpion, he’s suddenly approached by Sparky as he retaliates with his freeze power. Fortunately, Sonya is able to shield her teammate from the attack before she asks the ninjas where she can find Kano. However, Bi-Han informs her that his clan doesn’t have to cooperate with anyone as the picture gets destroyed. Just as the two sides are about to come to blows, they hear the announcement that land has been spotted.
Ultimately, they arrive at Shang Tsung’s island as the fiendish sorcerer welcomes the fighters to his upcoming tournament. From there, he introduces Goro to them, as well as his accomplishments. Sonya then steps in and says that she’s looking for Kano, but Shang Tsung tells her that America has no jurisdiction here. However, he will let her stay if she agrees to take part in the tournament. Following his speech, he leads the fighters to their morning meal. Johnny asks if every single participant is here, yet Shang Tsung says that’s not the case quite yet. From there, Issue 1 ends with Raiden arriving to help tip the balance within the upcoming tournament.
Issue 2 opens with Liu successfully testing his might upon several stones before Goro responds by smashing through his own pile of rocks while taunting him. Johnny says that they’re not afraid of him, forcing Kang to reign him in. From there, a guard informs Goro that he’s required to be at the arena for an upcoming match.
It turns out that the tournament’s first match-up has the U.S. Special Forces agent named Lance a.k.a. Sparky going up against Kano. Their fight gets fierce as Sparky uses his retractable bionic arms to grab his foe and deliver a powerful shock. He then tells Kano to get back up and that once he’s done with him, he’ll be gunning for the rest of the Black Dragon members. However, Kano responds with a fierce strike before he finishes his adversary with a fatality and rips Sparky’s heart out of his chest.
Sonya gets furious at her prime suspect, to the point where she doesn’t even care about bringing him back alive anymore and is now intent on killing him. She proceeds to shoot some pink ring energy from her gauntlets before she goes into a handstand grapple and throws him to the ground with her legs. The guards then try to break it up, yet she’s able to fight them off. However, she’s ultimately caught by Goro and gets taken to a place for “uncooperative guests”.
Over on another part of the island, Sub-Zero finds himself up against the six-armed ruler of the Outworld province of Katala named Grum. Bi-Han proceeds to make quick work of him by freezing him before kicking him in the face hard enough to break his neck. Afterwards, Goro tells him that Grum was a friend of his and that he was looking forward to besting him in the tournament, but he’ll settle for the frosty ninja instead. We then cut to a short time later as Sonya is imprisoned alongside Hydro, Sing and Sang. Even when the latter two come together to form Siang, they’re unable to break free from their reinforced shackles.
Over in Shang Tsung’s private quarters, he looks over the Tao Te Zhan and mentions that even though the Order of Light has cast a powerful protection spell onto it, he intends to find out how to undo it. Suddenly, he’s met upon by Raiden who tells him that even though he’s not allowed to fight in the tournament, he still intends to play some part in the overall contest, even though he heard a rumor about it getting halted. Shang Tsung then brings up the Tao Te Zhan as Raiden recognizes it as “an object of insurmountable power” that hasn’t been seen on Earth for several centuries. Shang Tsung then says that it contains the power that he’ll intend on getting in order to secure Outworld’s 10th-straight victory over Earthrealm and allow his master Shao Kahn to expand his empire into the realm. Raiden then promised the foul sorcerer that no matter what he’s planning, he’ll make sure to stand against him.
Meanwhile within another part of the palace, Johnny and Liu are looking to bust Sing & Sang out. However, they’re met upon by Hydro (Somehow, he escaped?) who’s trying to find Bi-Han. The ninja manages to blast Kang with his water-based attack, yet Cage takes him down with a fierce kick. Unfortunately, they get swarmed by the guards as Johnny wants to take them on, yet Liu tells him to refrain since they’re still “guests”. Meanwhile, Kano has regained consciousness and is snooping around the palace since he heard rumors that it was filled with various treasures. He soon finds Shang Tsung who’s managed to lift the protection spell from the Tao Te Zhan. Now, all that stands between him and new power is for him to correctly answer seven riddles. As such, he hides the book inside a box and heads out to put the tournament on hold in order to fulfill this task. After the sorcerer takes his leave, Kano comes in and retrieves it for himself. He then looks for a safe place to hide in order to properly examine it before he arrives in a room that he thinks is full of noisy machinery. However, it turns out to be Goro who was sleeping and has now woken up. Kano tries to attack him, but Goro knocks him out with a fierce backhand before he drags him away to properly deal with at a later time.
Later, he meets up with Shang Tsung who informs him that he finally managed to open the Tao Te Zhan. However, it’s now missing as he order his four-armed ally to find whoever took it. And so, Issue 2 ends with our main fighters captured and talking to each other. Suddenly, Sub-Zero gets a nervous chill as he senses Scorpion returning.
Issue 3 begins with Hanzo arriving in the holding cell and attacking Bi-Han with his spiked ball on a rope. Johnny demands to know who this guy is, to which Scorpion describes himself as “the Spirit of Retribution”. Sub-Zero is eager to fight his foe, while Hydro wants to slay their fellow prisoners. Fortunately, Bi-Han reminds him that the Lin Kuei don’t commit this kind of act as they proceed to free their fellow fighters. Just as Hanzo vanishes, the group gets confronted by Goro as he now blocks their lone exit.
Over within his private quarters, Shang Tsung gets contacted by Shao Kahn. The evil emperor is aware that the tournament has been put on hold and has made some initial progress with the Tao Te Zhan, but he wants to know when the portal to Earthrealm can finally be open. Shang tells him that there’s some complications, to which Shao Kahn tells him to get them solved fairly soon. Tsung then shatters his globe as he expresses his dissatisfaction towards serving Shao Kahn. He says that even though his emperor wants him to resume the tournament, he’s more interested in recovering the Tao Te Zhan in order to acquire the vast power that would let him become even more powerful than Shao Kahn himself.
Back in the dungeon, Goro is eager to fight our group of combatants. However, most of them are nervous for one reason or another. Ultimately, Sing & Sang decide to engage their foe as they come together and become Siang. From there, the unified monk fights the towering beast. Unfortunately, Goro grabs his arms and rips the two warriors from each other before he fatally slams their heads together. Suddenly, a lightning bolt strikes down near him as Raiden makes his presence known.
With the knowledge of Goro turning down the offer to join the side of light still fresh in his mind, the Thunder God attacks him with some lightning. Goro managed to lunge at him, but Raiden teleports out of the way before he reengages the four-armed foe. During the scuffle, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Kano & Scorpion ponder about their recent events. Ultimately, all of them (with the exception of Kano) decide to gang up on Goro.
Despite Liu delivering a fierce kick followed by Bi-Han encasing him within his frost power, Goro breaks free before he viciously beats up every last opposing fighter. Shang Tsung was watching this from afar as he praises his Shokan warrior. Just as he tells his master to take the fallen fighters as his tributes, Goro suddenly becomes encased within a glowing light before he completely vanishes. As the beaten group gets to their feet even they’re surprised by this turn of events. Raiden says that he wasn’t behind Goro’s complete disappearance before he blasts a hole open and carries his combatants out via the wind. Before he heads out, he warns Shang Tsung that his day of reckoning is coming.
And so, Issue 3 ends with the evil sorcerer swearing to find the Thunder God and his fighters before he claims their souls as his own.
Issue 4 opens with the reveal that Raiden has escaped with our main fighters into Outworld. However, they wound up scattered upon entering the wicked realm. While the Thunder God has ended up with Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage is with Sonya Blade and Liu Kang finds himself alongside Kano. Over within the wastelands, Bi-Han is specifically looking for Hydro. Suddenly, he feels the intense burning in his throat as he senses that Scorpion is nearby. As such, both of them head out to investigate. Meanwhile, Hanzo isn’t too far from them as he’s caught up to Hydro and wants him to beg for mercy. Once the aquatic ninja refused, Scorpion proceeds to launch his spiked ball and rope at him. Hydro tries to counter with his water power, but the projectile goes right through his attack and fatally strikes him. From there, Hanzo reveals his flaming skull head before he slays his foe.
He then vows to tear the Lin Kuei down before he ultimately kills Sub-Zero. Suddenly, he gets attacked by Raiden before Bi-Han tells him that this is his fight. He then courageously decides to fight the opposing specter as he freezes him. He then tells Scorpion that he has to become solid if he’s able to kill him before he leaps down and shatters his foe’s frozen body with a fierce kick. However, Scorpion’s soul is still safe before he declares that they’ll fight again someday. Sub-Zero tells him that he’ll always be ready for him, to which Raiden that he’ll protect the icy ninja as well. From there, Hanzo says that he’s underestimated his adversary and will need more power to enact his revenge, to which he knows where to go get it. Back on Shang Tsung’s island on Earthrealm, two goons decide to steal from the evil sorcerer’s palace, especially since they heard that Goro disappeared. However, they’re soon met upon by the fierce Shokan prince as he easily beats them up. Afterwards, it’s revealed that Shang Tsung had transformed into him in order to prevent the other fighters from getting over-confident. He then says that while he hates that he lost his prisoners, the Tao Te Zhan and his four-armed comrade, he intends on being patient since he already has a search party looking for Goro.
Back in Outworld, Johnny comes across a village as he decides to go check it out. Suddenly, he’s approached by a pair of natives who manage to grab him. Fortunately, he’s able to fend them off with his fighting skills. However, he’s then met upon by more natives who’re lead by a woman who looks exactly like Sonya, but instead called herself Queen Aynos as she looks to make him pay for breaking her village laws. Cage thinks that she’s actually Lt. Blade and gives her a kiss, but she kicks him down and now intends on taking his life for his act of “indiscretion”. Just as she’s about to stab him with a spear, she gets by a rock as the actual Sonya shows up and proceeds to fight her.
Lt. Blade is able to easily beat her royal lookalike up, but the natives manage to subdue both her and Johnny. Aynos then gets up and prepares to finish them off with a fatality called the Kiss of Death. Fortunately, they manage to break free and evade the harmful projectile. From there, they team-up and knock Aynos out with their own kicks. Afterwards, she figures out that they’re not on either Shang Tsung’s island or even on Earthrealm. From there, Cage makes a witty comment towards her as he puts up with it while they head out.
Meanwhile within the Living Forest, Liu and Kano have made a campfire. Kano returns with some firewood as they each manage to break it up into smaller pieces. Suddenly, Kang discovers ND recognizes the Tao Te Zhan nearby as Kano comes in and reclaims it for himself. Fortunately, Liu kicks him and gets the book back as he says that it belongs to the Order of Light since it was stolen from them. Kano says that he’s unable to open it past the first page, to which Kang discovers the first riddle on it: “You may swallow me, but I may swallow you”, to which he correctly answers with “Water” as another section of the book opens up. Liu then wonders who could’ve opened the book in the first place, since it was protected by a spell that prevented it from being open. Kano says that they could possible solve the entire thing before he thinks to himself on how he’ll let Kang do all the work before he claims the ultimate power for himself. Suddenly, the book gets snatched out of their hands by a familiar spiked ball and rope as Issue 4 ends with Scorpion claiming that he’ll possess the ultimate power that lies within it.
Following a brief recap of both Raiden and Hanzo, Issue 5 picks up where the last part left off. Kano and Liu attempt to retrieve the book from him, but Scorpion ends up teleporting away. We then shift ahead later that day as he gets several miles away before he reads over the Tao Te Zhan from a Cliffside spot. From there, he reads the second riddle: “Ten men’s length, Ten men’s strength. Ten men can’t tear it, yet a little boy walks off with it”. However, he can’t concentrate due to his mind thinking back to the day of his initial death at the chilling hands of Sub-Zero. In anger, he takes out his spiked ball & rope and swears to get back at him.
Fortunately for him, it makes him realize that the answer to the second riddle is “Rope”. Shortly after the book accepts his answer and his gets one step closer to absolute power, Hanzo gets struck by lightning as Raiden arrives to intervene. After he teleports away from Scorpion’s spiked ball, he then pops up behind the specter and blasts him through the chest with his thunderbolts. Hanzo wearily tries to reclaim the Tao Te Zhan, but Raiden uses the winds of a summoned storm to blow it away from him and tells him that it’s unleashed dire consequences every time that it’s been open.
He goes on to say that mankind had foolishly tried to control the book’s power to no avail. As such, he’s decided to cast it into a place where no one can find it as he sends it down the canyon. Unbeknownst to him, it gets discovered by Johnny and Sonya. From there, they read its third riddle: “What is it that overcomes you and you never see it?”. With the inclement weather still looming, she tells him that they must find a proper shelter. We then shift ahead a short time later as they hold up in a cave before they ponder about the answer to the riddle. With both of them being stumped, she starts feeling tired and decides to rest.
Thankfully, her drowsy action let’s him realize that the answer is “Sleep” as the book glows with his correct response. Just as look at the Tao Te Zhan in amazement, they’re suddenly met upon by Sub-Zero who looks to claim it for himself. Cage and Blade do fight him off, but he ultimately defeats them as he puts them in a temporary freeze before he takes the book and runs off.
Sometime later after he’s gotten many miles away from them, Bi-Han clears his mind and prepares to take on the fourth riddle as it reads: “What bridge is built without any stone or wood?”. From there, he easily answers with “Ice” as the Tao Te Zhan accepts his correct answer and glows, getting him one step closer to its ultimate power.
Back on his island within Earthrealm, Shang Tsung is met upon by three otherworldly fighters who demand to know why the tournament has been put on hold. Not only that, but they mention the growing rumor that Goro had disappeared. The fiendish sorcerer tells them that they were only invited to be “fodder for the real warriors”, yet he’ll gladly take them on. They charge right at him, yet he easily obliterates them with a series of flaming skull projectiles. From there, the scene ends with him mentioning that servants will located his Shokan warrior and his book before he ultimately becomes a Supreme sorcerer.
Back within Outworld’s Living Forest, Kang is in the middle of some meditation. Suddenly, Kano runs back in and warns him that some mutants are approaching them. The Shaolin warrior readies himself before they’re met upon by the vast number of mutants that have “flourished” under Shao Kahn’s rule. With no other choice, Liu and Kano join forces as they ultimately put the opposing individuals down.
Afterwards, Kang suspects that something is up as he mentions that their foes didn’t put as strong of a fight as he thought they would. Suddenly, Kano confirms it as he stabs him in the back and explains that he met those mutants several hours ago, befriending them in the process. From there, he heads out to go retrieve the Tao Te Zhan whole Liu wearily passes out as he feels his life slipping away. He then dreams of the Great Kung Lao, who’s combination of speed, strength and endurance made him the Order of Light’s greatest champion. Unfortunately, he was no match for Goro who stole his life within a brutal beatdown. While Kang’s life slowly slips away, he suddenly hears a voice that tells him to follow him away from death’s door. He’s then approached by a figure who tells him that it’s not his time to die before he picks the weary fighter up and tells him that he’s in good hands, with Issue 5 ending on the reveal that it’s another Shaolin warrior named Kung Lao.
Issue 6 begins with Kano and his mutant gang sneaking up on Sub-Zero so that he can retrieve the Tao Te Zhan. He manages to sneak up to the icy ninja and hit him but it turns out that he attacked his ice clone and ends up frozen. Bi-Han then emerges and mentions that he managed to solve the fifth riddle (albeit off-panel) before he proceeds to fight the entire mutant armada. He manages to take down every last otherworldly goon, but his victory gets cut short as Kano gets freed from his frozen state and hits Sub-Zero on the head, causing the ninja to get knocked out. From there, he reclaims the book in preparation to solve its last two riddles.
Suddenly, he’s met upon by Sonya who’s looking to not bring him into custody, but instead murder him. From there, she proceeds to beat him into a bloody pulp.
Meanwhile in the Living Forest, Liu is alive and resting up as he talks to his rescuer. As Kung Lao presents him with a bitter-tasting medicine to drink, he presents himself as he says that his name means a lot to the Order of Light. Kang realizes that it’s the same name as the monk who was the Mortal Kombat champion that fell to Goro, to which Kung Lao says that he’s the sole remaining descendant. Liu then asks if the Order of Light is aware of him, to which Kung Lao says that they are, but he’s not an active member. After all, he’s spent his whole life traveling around the world and has seen & learned a lot from his journeys. Kang tells him that he should’ve stayed with the Order, yet Kung mentions to him that he’s been a worthy representative to the group. Liu then informs him that Siang was recently bested by Goro, yet Lao tells him that he’s always been the Order’s best champion. From there, he tells Kang to rest up before he heads out to get more fire wood.
Back with Bi-Han, he climbs up a cliff while he chastises himself for getting knocked out so easily. Once he reaches the top, he sees Kano getting beaten by Lt. Blade before he sees the Tao Te Zhan lying nearby. Just as he picks it up, he’s soon attacked by Johnny as they proceed to fight each other. While Cage tries to distract him with his witty banter, Sub-Zero combines his Ice power with his physical skills in order to keep the action star at bay. Ultimately, the fight ends with Johnny besting Bi-Han via a fierce jump kick.